LIB­ER­ALS MAKE BAD SIT­U­A­TION WORSE

RE­FUSAL TO ACT ON PEO­PLE’S CON­CERNS DRIVES AT­TI­TUDES TO­WARD EX­TREMES

National Post (Latest Edition) - - ISSUES & IDEAS - KELLY MC­PAR­LAND

Not many peo­ple think of Danes as nasty, un­civ­i­lized peo­ple. Like Canada, Den­mark is one of those coun­tries that usu­ally pro­duces a pos­i­tive re­sponse, even if no one is quite sure why. It just seems like a nice place, with nice peo­ple. They pro­duce cheese and some good hockey play­ers. What’s to dis­like?

It has some of the world’s high­est taxes, and a wel­fare state to die for. It reg­u­larly ranks at the top of the world’s hap­pi­est coun­tries.

The level of na­tional con­tent­ment is of­ten at­trib­uted to some­thing called “hygge,” which is a sort of cosy feel­ing of so­cial well­be­ing, of safety, and shared plea­sure in a com­mon com­mu­nity.

Hygge may re­sult from the fact Den­mark is over­whelm­ingly filled with Danes. Al­most nine in 10 have at least one par­ent born in the coun­try. In con­trast, Statis­tics Canada re­ports Canada’s vis­i­ble mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tion is ap­proach­ing 25 per cent, with es­ti­mates it could reach 34 per cent by 2036. Den­mark is a small, co­he­sive coun­try — just 5.5 mil­lion peo­ple in an area smaller than Nova Sco­tia — where peo­ple over­whelm­ingly share sim­i­lar ori­gins.

And they want to keep it that way. Last week the Dan­ish par­lia­ment agreed to set up a de­por­ta­tion cen­tre on a tiny, un­in­hab­ited is­land most re­cently used to re­search in­fec­tious an­i­mal dis­eases. About 100 mi­grants will be kept there, mainly those with crim­i­nal records or de­por­ta­tion dif­fi­cul­ties. Though they won’t be be­hind bars, and are tech­ni­cally free to leave, there is lim­ited ferry ser­vice and they have to be back by night.

The gov­ern­ment says it’s just try­ing to keep the coun­try safe, but one party in the rul­ing coali­tion quickly pub­lished a cel­e­bra­tory car­toon show­ing dark­skinned man in Is­lamic dress be­ing dumped on a tiny, empty is­land.

Den­mark joins Aus­tralia — an­other coun­try not gen­er­ally viewed as back­ward or brutish — in iso­lat­ing un­wanted mi­grants in off­shore camps. Aus­tralia has de­ten­tion cen­tres in Pa­pua New Guinea and Nauru. Both are rife with mis­ery. The fa­cil­ity in PNG was ruled il­le­gal by the Pa­puan courts and is slated to close, though there’s no clear plan on the 700 in­hab­i­tants’ fu­ture, as they can’t go home and won’t be al­lowed into Aus­tralia. The Nauru site is reg­u­larly ac­cused of abu­sive prac­tices and men­tal-health mis­treat­ment. De­spite strict re­stric­tions on ac­cess to Aus­tralian soil, 11 chil­dren were re­cently evac­u­ated there for health rea­sons.

The two coun­tries are tes­ta­ment to what hap­pens, even in tol­er­ant, demo­cratic coun­tries, when opin­ions on im­mi­gra­tion and refugee poli­cies har­den. The Danes are alarmed by the in­flux across Europe of mi­grants from Syria and the Mid­dle East, and the im­pact on other, big­ger neigh­bours like Ger­many and Swe­den. Aus­tralia’s harsh ap­proach is meant to dis­suade would-be mi­grants from per­ilous ef­forts to reach the coun­try by sea.

Cana­di­ans still like to think of them­selves as wel­com­ing and open-minded, but we’re hardly im­mune. Que­bec’s new provin­cial gov­ern­ment af­firmed this week it in­tends to re­duce im­mi­gra­tion next year by 20 per cent, and is work­ing on a “val­ues” test and French lan­guage stan­dards. Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Si­mon Jolin-Bar­rette said the aim is to en­sure new ar­rivals can in­te­grate with Que­bec so­ci­ety and find work, though the prov­ince is al­ready fac­ing a labour short­age. At 118,000 un­filled jobs, it has the high­est va­cancy rate in the coun­try.

Con­cern over im­mi­gra­tion was height­ened by the surge of il­le­gal ar­rivals across the Que­bec-U.S. bor­der, and Ot­tawa’s seem­ing in­abil­ity to come to grips with it. The Par­lia­men­tary Bud­get Of­fice re­ports the gov­ern­ment spent $340 mil­lion last year on il­le­gal — Ot­tawa in­sists on us­ing the term “ir­reg­u­lar” — bor­der-crossers, and could spend $400 mil­lion next year. Mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials in Toronto and Mon­treal have strug­gled to cope with the in­flux, which re­quires hous­ing, lan­guage help, care for chil­dren and other ser­vices. The costs far out­pace any help they’ve had from Ot­tawa.

De­spite Lib­er­als’ in­sis­tence it has things un­der con­trol, the in­flux has cre­ated an enor­mous back­log in claims and height­ened pub­lic un­ease. Cana­di­ans who sus­pect the sys­tem of be­ing gamed were hardly re­as­sured when the PBO re­ported that il­le­gal ar­rivals may act as “an­chor rel­a­tives” clear­ing the way for other fam­ily mem­bers to en­ter the coun­try and gain di­rect ac­cess to gen­er­ous ben­e­fit pro­grams.

Rather than ad­dress con­cerns, Lib­er­als pre­fer to de­mo­nize crit­ics in much the same way en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists lump all dis­sent­ing views into one gi­ant pot of deniers and con­spir­acy nuts. The ef­fect is sim­i­lar: peo­ple who can see past the spin and games­man­ship lose faith that the gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ous about ad­dress­ing le­git­i­mate prob­lems.

Trudeau’s re­fusal to act on Al­berta’s valid con­cerns over its pipe­line needs is what turned a man­age­able sit­u­a­tion into a spread­ing cri­sis. His in­abil­ity to con­ceive any ap­proach to car­bon emis­sions other than a tax is what led pre­miers in five prov­inces to mount a united front in op­po­si­tion.

His de­ter­mi­na­tion to ig­nore valid con­cerns about abuse of Canada’s gen­er­ous im­mi­gra­tion and refugee poli­cies is sim­i­larly push­ing at­ti­tudes to­ward two ex­tremes, un­nec­es­sar­ily ex­ac­er­bat­ing an al­ready volatile is­sue.

The Lib­er­als are mak­ing a bad sit­u­a­tion worse. Once again, con­vinced of their su­pe­rior virtue, they can’t seem to get the cot­ton out of their ears and lis­ten.

LIB­ER­ALS PRE­FER TO DE­MO­NIZE CRIT­ICS.

MADS CLAUS RAS­MUSSEN / RITZAU SCANPIX VIA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The is­land of Lind­holm, where the Dan­ish par­lia­ment has agreed to set up a de­por­ta­tion cen­tre. Un­til this sum­mer, Lind­holm was a lab­o­ra­tory fa­cil­ity for the state vet­eri­nary in­sti­tute re­search­ing con­ta­gious an­i­mal dis­eases.

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